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Ancient Forests, Mountain Scenery and Outstanding Coastal Views Make The Garden Route A Must See

The garden route is one of the 'must-sees' for most visitors to South Africa, and with good reason. Within just 300km, stretching from Mossel Bay to just beyond Plettenberg, there is a range of beautiful landscapes, boasting stunning countryside, mountainous backdrops, coastal views and an abundance of wildlife. The coast is dotted with superb beaches, while inland you'll find picturesque lagoons and lakes, rolling hills and the mountains of the Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma ranges. The ancient indigenous forests that line the coast offer fantastic hiking and bird-watching, with an impressive 250 species to be found, whilst the idyllic towns of Knysna, Wilderness and Plettenberg Bay are great bases for exploring the area.

In and Around
The picturesque towns along the Garden Route offer a variety of accommodation.

 

George: George is known as the starting point of the Garden Route, if travelling east. This town offers beautiful scenery, surrounded by the Outeniqua Mountains and the Indian Ocean.

Knysna: In many ways Knysna is at the heart of the Garden Route. Nestled on the banks of a stunning estuary, it is surrounded by forests, lakes and beaches. The town offers craft shops, flea markets and a waterfront with restaurants renowned for their oysters.

Plettenberg Bay: Surrounded by miles of unspoilt beaches, this destination is situated in one of the most beautiful bays in Southern Africa. The town has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere and offers fine restaurants. A trip to Monkeyland or Elephant Park allows you to get close to wildlife.

Port Elizabeth: Port Elizabeth is the largest city on the coast between Cape Town and Durban. It can be the start or end point for visitors wishing to travel along the Garden Route or to venture into one of the game reserves. It is also a holiday destination in itself, with a warm and welcoming atmosphere and a climate that delivers a great deal of sunshine.

 
 
tsala_treetop_lodge
Set overlooking a magnificent indigenous forest, this stunning retreat offers an intimate and romantic atmosphere.
arabella_hotel_&_spa
Carefully designed to blend in with its natural surroundings, with all rooms offering tranquil vistas of the lagoon, golf course or gardens.
fancourt
South Africa's leading golfing and leisure resort, combining old world charm and contemporary appeal in 613 hectares of lush countryside.
grootbos_nature_reserve
Greeted with a smile and welcomed with a glass of fine South African sparkling wine, guests at Grootbos are made to feel instantly special.
hunters_country_house
A beautifully restored country house offering excellent service and luxurious rooms in thatched suite cottages surrounded by beautiful gardens.
kuzuko_lodge
Kuzuko Lodge is gloriously situated high upon a hill overlooking the vast expanse of the 'big 5' reserve below. It's peaceful and quiet, the perfect place to get away from it all.
oceana_beach_&_wildlife_reserve
An ultra luxurious haven for world travellers, with five-star dining, one of a kind amenities and endless pampering, all nestled in the midst of an exotic ocean/game reserve.
phantom_forest_eco_reserve
Nestled in the Afromontane Forest, with endless views of the surrounding area. The large and elevated luxury 'tree suites' are an African celebration of natural textures.
rosenhof_country_house
This carefully renovated homestead is well known for its beauty, friendly service and excellent cuisine.
st_james_of_knysna
St James of Knysna is an owner-run, exclusive country house hotel on the shores of Knysna Lagoon. Spectacular views can be seen across the lagoon. The beautiful surroundings of wooded hills present a stunning back drop to the hotel and lake.
the_marine
A stunning hotel, perfectly placed for whale-watching and exploring Hermanus.
the_plettenberg
A stylish five-star Relais & Chateaux hotel. Guests will enjoy a luxurious, idyllic and indulgent experience.
lake_pleasant_living
Lake Pleasant Living offers superb accommodation and facilities in tranquil surroundings, close to Knysna.
auberge_burgundy
Offering comfortable accommodation and friendly service, this hotel is surrounded by restaurants, the craft market, boutiques, art galleries and quaint shopping malls. The cool blue sea of Walker Bay is within minutes of the front door.
bay_lodge_on_the_beach
Jan and Lydia Kruger invites you to enjoy the comfort and tranquillity of Bay Lodge, blending luxury beachfront accommodation with superb facilities and service.
belvidere_manor_hotel
The historic Belvidere Manor is an enchanting country retreat offering stunning views of the lagoon and mountains beyond.
bushman_sands_hotel
This 4-star hotel is a delightful blend of rich heritage and modern luxury and has won wide acclaim as a forerunner in sustainable, ecological and community tourism.
de_opstal_country_lodge
A beautiful farm house, stables and milking parlour dating back to the 1830s, perfectly restored to provide a tranquil environment.
hacklewood_hill_country_house
Hacklewood Hill Country House is a classic manor house offering plenty of Victorian elegance and style. The pristine gardens and private verandahs are reminiscent of a typical English retreat.
hog_hollow_country_lodge
Hog Hollow is set on the edge of an indigenous forest in a private nature reserve with panoramic views of the surrounding forests, valleys and mountains. Expect outstanding cuisine, numerous activities and truly memorable hospitality from the Hog Hol...
kelway_hotel
This wooden lodge offers exceptional comfort, tradition & style.
knysna_log_inn
One of the largest log structures in the southern hemisphere, constructed only of natural products.
la_plume_guesthouse
This 1902 Victorian homestead offers guests an insight into a working ostrich farm. The friendly service and attention to detail will help you to relax in the peaceful rural surroundings of the Olifants River Valley.
lairds_lodge_country_estate
Laird's Lodge, with its blend of discreet service and understated comfort, epitomises the truly South African hospitality experience.
protea_hotel_marine
Overlooking the sun-drenched sands of Pollock Beach this hotel is perfectly situated within close reach of the city centre and airport. The Protea Hotel Marine prides itself on quality facilities and personal service.
surval_boutique_olive_estate
Situated at the foot of the majestic Swartberg mountain range (a UNESCO World Heritage site) in the Klein Karoo, 4.5 km outside Oudtshoorn, Surval Boutique Olive Estate is a working farm estate offering superb accommodation and uncompromising levels ...
the_beach_hotel
The Beach Hotel, one of Port Elizabeth's finest boutique hotels, offers excellent accommodation and facilities.
the_paxton_hotel
The Paxton provides superb accommodation for discerning visitors to this beautiful and fast developing South African coastal town.
protea_hotel_knysna_quays
A stylish and modern hotel which offers a tranquil stay in spacious rooms overlooking the majestic Knysna lagoon.
graywood_hotel
Relive the luxury of an era gone by in Knysna's timberlog hotel. The Graywood is ideally situated to enjoy the town's many attractions and activities.
knysna_hollow_country_estate
Knysna Hollow Country Estate is perfectly located to explore all the attractions the Garden Route has to offer. The nearby lagoon is a haven for fishing and water sport enthusiasts.
montagu_country_hotel
This very popular country style hotel is situated in a historic and picturesque area of Montagu. The lush green lawns and swimming pool area boast magnificient views of the nearby mountains.
oakdene_guest_house
This family owned guest house which has been declared a National Monument, has been lovingly restored by the owners. Offers a charming and comfortable stay whilst you overnight in this arid region.
windsor_hotel_hermanus
On the very edge of Walker Bay, the Windsor Hotel combines the best of traditional hospitality with all the comforts of stylish waterfront living.

Map

The Garden Route, a 300-kilometre road that meanders through the southwestern coast of South Africa, offers stunning natural beauty. It is aptly named due to the lush forests and river valleys you can see along the route. Starting from Mossel Bay in the Western Cape and ending at the mouth of Storms River in the Eastern Cape, the journey will also take you through characterful towns such as Sedgefield, Knysna, and Nature’s Valley.  

For many people, access to the Garden Route is easiest from Cape Town since flying there is a breeze. Touch down, hire a car, and start your adventure. This road trip will certainly be one of the best that you have ever done, particularly for intrepid adventurers.

 
 
 

Many of the towns along the Garden Route, like Knysna and Plettenberg Bay were once big commercial hubs, providing resources for ships that stopped to trade and refuel. The first Europeans arrived in this area during the 17th century and made a living from hunting and the ivory trade. By the 19th century, more Europeans had arrived and decided to take advantage of the abundant hardwood forests available. They hired brave Boer woodcutters who ventured deep into the lush forest. Today, many of the rainforest trails in Knysna are used by tourists to experience the beauty of the local flora. 

There are also two protected areas along the route worth mentioning. Established in 1964, the Tsitsikamma National Park is home to the popular Otter Trail, a hiking route that takes you along the coast, giving you the chance to see Cape clawless otters playing in the water. The Knysna National Lake Area is another gem, with a huge lagoon that’s home to the endangered African Black Oystercatcher bird.

 
 

The flora and fauna along the Garden Route vary incredibly. Playful dolphins and majestic whales can be spotted from a few towns along the coast, including Mossel Bay, Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, between June and November. 

Some of the towns also boast native animals. For example, you can spot Cape dwarf chameleon and the beautiful bird turaco in Kynsna; while Cape fur seal colonies make their homes in Plettenberg Bay. 

To get the most out of your South African adventure, visit these exciting towns along the Garden Route and experience what makes each one different and special. 

 
 
 

Spring (September to October)

September is the prime whale watching month so spring is the best time to head out on the Garden Route for those wanting to include whale watching in Plettenberg Bay or Mossel Bay as part of the experience. During this time, temperatures range between 15C to 25C, and it is usually relatively dry.  

Summer (November to February)

Summer is hot and dry, with about ten and a half hours of sunshine a day. Temperatures can get up to 35C, but the nice coastal breeze will keep you relatively cool.

The summer months are definitely the peak season, with many people heading to the Garden Route during their Christmas and New Year holidays. Expect accommodation to be more expensive and the entire coastal area to be busier. 

Autumn (March to May)

Temperatures are colder during the autumn months, but during the day temperatures rise to around 20C. There are fewer tourists at this time, so you can snap up some bargain accommodation.

Winter (June to September)

Winter is mild along the Garden Route and this season is a firm favourite for oyster fans. The 10-day Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival, held annually in late June or early July, draws a strong crowd. The town also hosts sporting events from rugby to marathons during this time. 

Winter is also peak whale watching season, so keep your eyes peeled for these ocean giants as you make your way along the Garden Route. The best thing about the winter is that it’s the low season. There’ll be fewer tourists and great accommodation deals!
 

 
 

With so many beautiful towns to visit along the way, there’s a lot to see and do along the Garden Route. Prepare to enjoy excellent beaches, go on exciting hikes, explore fun flea markets and wine and dine in fabulous restaurants. Wherever you stop, you’ll experience a unique side of South Africa. 

For those interested in primates, Monkeyland in Plettenberg Bay is an essential stop. This primate sanctuary offers guided forest tours where you can see monkeys, apes and lemurs lounging in among the branches.

To see the annual whale migration in all its glory, there are a number of boat cruises you can take part in. Such trips can get you up close and personal with these giant mammals, and if you’re lucky, you’ll also be able to see pods of dolphins frolicking in the waves. Alternatively, you can watch the whales from a number of land points along the Garden Route, such as The Heads or Brenton-on-Sea in the town of Knysna.

 
 

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